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Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category

 

A homeless woman slumped against the familiar brick wall of the warehouse, then grouped her plastic shopping bags snugly around her. Next she looped several bag-handles on her legs, and stretched her arms over the rest. The worry of losing to theft any of her treasured possessions kept her vigilant. Once settled, she succumbed to a fitful doze.

A man approached. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he called gently. “Are you Genevieve Bartlett?”

The woman startled awake, instinctively clutching her belongings more tightly. “What if I am?” she grumbled.

“Well, if you can answer a few questions for me, I may have some excellent news for you,” he replied calmly, recognizing that defensiveness in her position was only to be expected.

Genevieve returned his gaze with a scowl, but sat up straighter, readying herself to listen. The questions were easy: what were the names of her deceased parents and grandparents, when and where had she been born, and where had she attended school.

The man handed her his card and began to explain. “My name is Henry Lewis. I’m a lawyer, here to inform you you’re the last surviving Bartlett of your family, and you’ve just inherited fifty million dollars. If you’ll come with me, we can take care of the details at my office, and start the process of…finding a more comfortable situation for you. Would that be to your liking?”

 

 

Genevieve didn’t move for several moments. “Fifty million dollars,” she repeated slowly, and studied the lawyer’s face. Could he possibly be telling the truth? But why else would he seek her out at the warehouse?

Genevieve suddenly slipped the bag-handles off her legs, stood up, and announced, “I’m ready, let’s go!” Without even looking back, Genevieve left her shopping bags and their worthless contents on the pavement.

Out of several interpretations for this story, consider the shopping bags as representative of our fears. Don’t we sometimes hold on to them—worthless as they are—as tightly as Genevieve held on to her belongings?

But as God’s children, we possess tremendous wealth, worth much more than fifty million dollars, because “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure” (Matthew 13:44). And unlike Genevieve during her homeless days, we have access to a good part of that treasure now, if we let go of our worries and lay hold of our wealth.

 

 

So what might that treasure include?  Consider the following:

1. God’s Glorious Provision. Unlike Genevieve, we know a glorious inheritance is waiting for us.  Ours is in heaven—an inheritance so magnificent, when we arrive there, we’ll look back on our earthly lives “as an insubstantial dream from which we have happily awoken” (Austin Farrer).

2. God’s Involvement. He is always at work. Take note of his wisdom in creation, his engineering of life-circumstances, and his generosity in the blessings he bestows. God even makes joy available in the midst of trouble. 

3. God’s Sovereignty.  No doubt Mr. Lewis designed a plan for Genevieve to provide for her well-being. God too has designed a perfect and purposeful plan to accomplish much good, in the world at large and for each of us individually.  Whatever we entrust to him, he will take care of much better than we can.

 

 

4. God’s Unfailing Love.  We can leave our worries behind, as Genevieve did her shopping bags, when we dwell on the lovingkindness of God. In fact, peace of heart is guaranteed–if we keep our focus upon him. 

5. God’s Constant Presence. He is always with us—even as we wait for him to act. The attentive person recognizes his presence in the aria of a songbird, the sunbeams of a morning, the spontaneous hug of a friend.

 

 

6. God’s Kindness and Care.  Surely Genevieve marveled for the rest of her days how Mr. Lewis had changed her life.  We can draw strength and great delight from remembering God’s gracious provisions of our past.

7. God’s Powerful Word. Scripture offers indispensable comfort and encouragement, reminding us that God is our protective Shield and dependable Rock, our caring Shepherd and devoted Helper, our loving Provider and strong Confidence.

 

 

In these seven ways and more, God generously shares his inheritance with us now, giving us the opportunity to overcome anxiety with joy.   After all, every fear about our future, safety, health, suffering, death, financial woes, inadequacy, and events beyond our control are good-for-nothing baggage.

The question becomes: Will I let go of my worthless bags of worries and lay hold of my glorious inheritance?

 

 

Scripture Notes for:

  1. 1 Peter 1:3-4
  2. Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 94:19
  3. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Romans 8:28
  4. Psalm 94:17-18; Isaiah 26:3
  5. Psalm 23:4
  6. Psalm 92:4
  7. Psalm 3:3; 18:2; 23:1; 46:1; 78:23-29; Proverbs 14:26

 

(Genevieve’s story is based on an illustration from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “To Give You the Kingdom.”)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; wwww.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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Years ago when I taught fourth grade, our reading curriculum included a mini-lesson about A-HA Moments—places in a story where the author answers questions the reader has been wondering about.

Watching for those moments keeps the reader alert (thus improving comprehension), contributes to greater understanding of the plot and characters, and makes reading more fun.

Once our students became familiar with the concept, we enjoyed calling out “A-HA!” to one another (occasionally in unison) as other epiphanies occurred, whether it was in class or at recess. The sharing of A-HA Moments developed our classroom community and added to the joy of learning.

 

 

Our Heavenly Father also provides A-HA Moments, through such avenues as scripture, other reading, comments from others, and observations in nature. Our God is highly creative, providing personal revelations in numerous ways.

And similar to the benefits of A-HA Moments for students, our discovery moments with God augment our understanding of scripture and spiritual matters, strengthen our relationship with him, and add to the joy of learning from him.

For example:

 

 

  • An A-Ha Moment from Scripture

After six delightful years at one church, my pastor-husband received word he’d be assigned to a new congregation in three months’ time. My heart sank. This would be our third such move in thirteen years, and it wasn’t getting easier. As you know, saying good-bye hurts.

In addition, I had just returned that year to full-time teaching, after a long hiatus as a stay-at-home mom. Now I’d face the onerous task of procuring another position.

In the weeks that followed the announcement, we learned about some of the difficult challenges facing the new-to-us congregation.   And I wondered, God, what ARE you doing?

 

 

One afternoon a radio host quoted Jeremiah 29:11—a familiar scripture—but that day those words spoke loud and clear to me from God himself: Nancy, there is no reason to worry. I have already worked out my plans for you—plans to prosper you, not harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a thriving future.

Indeed we did prosper at that new church—for thirteen years—as God brought us and taught us through those numerous challenges. But one problem took care of itself—a new teaching position for me. (You can read that story at After the Fact.)

 

  • An A-HA Moment from other reading

 

 

The fact I’m writing about this topic today is the result of an A-HA Moment in itself. First, the seed of an idea was already on my topic list for 2019, but I had no notion how to develop it.

Currently I’m studying Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. And just the other day I read this:

 

“I know the Lord is speaking to me personally when I read my Bible

and a particular verse or passage seems illuminated

—it just lifts up off the page,

and I seem to hear a gentle, inaudible whisper

as I have an ‘aha moment’ in my heart.”

–Anne Graham Lotz

 

Anne’s A-HA Moment caused me to have one of my own. God brought to mind the story about moving I just shared above as well as other examples. Then he pointed out other avenues of A-HA Moments, and I knew this was today’s topic.

 

 

  • An A-HA Moment in God’s Living Room

That’s what Michael Hyatt* calls the out-of-doors.  Isn’t that a poetically perfect appellation?   My special corner in God’s living room is our back deck overlooking the treetops.

One morning last October, the deck was surrounded by stillness—no birds trilled, no squirrels chattered—until one lone cardinal began to sing. Enthusiastically he filled our little woods with his voice, and his song made me smile.

I was reminded that God often breaks through the stillness of all our lives, with custom-designed lessons, answered prayers, and out-of-the-blue blessings. As a result, we experience hope, peace, and joy—three commodities that make life worth living.

 

 

Recorded in my journal is the impression God spoke in my spirit:

I do love to surprise My children! And their subsequent celebrations of praise bring Me great pleasure. But in reality I provide more wonders than they often perceive. Some surprises go unnoticed.

Keep watching and listening, Nancy, so we can smile, laugh, and celebrate together all the delightful surprises I bring into your life.

And therein lies the secret for experiencing life-enriching A-HA Moments with God: keeping watch (Micah 7:7) and listening attentively (Proverbs 1:5).

 

 

“Blessed are your eyes because they see,

and your ears because they hear.”

–Matthew 13:16

 

*former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

What A-HA Moment has God presented to you lately? Tell us your story in the Comments section below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.kadena.af.mil; http://www.calicospanish.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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In the midst of my harried day

When I seem farthest from myself

A moment comes to me and beckons,

“Let us fly away.”

 

Shutting out the din

Of the never-ending to-do

I close my eyes and begin

To wander in thoughts sublime;

And gather flowers in my mind.

 

–Tara Afriat*

 

Such delightful imagery Tara creates with that last line. But I wonder, what sublime thoughts might be worthy of a bouquet in my mind?  So far, five varieties have occurred to me:

 

1. Humor offers blooms of joy.

 

 

Just recently my husband was hospitalized and underwent a number of tests. When an orderly came to accompany Steve to a procedure he announced, “One CT scan, coming up. Would you like fries with that?”

I’m thinking a new journal specifically for humor might be fun to keep (and savor later).

 

2. Quotes provide blooms of wisdom, encouragement, and beauty.

Isn’t it amazing how a few well-chosen words can suddenly enlighten our understanding or give us eyes to see what was invisible just moments before?

A recent addition in my quote journal offers wisdom, encouragement, and the potential for beauty:

 

 

“Make one person happy every day and in forty years

you’ll have made 14,600 human beings happy

for a little time at least.”

–Unknown

 

Such encouragement gives wise perspective to the impact of small kindnesses, doesn’t it?   And what fun to cause 14,600 beautiful smiles!

 

3. Observations become blooms of refreshment.

 

 

Another journal on my shelf is titled “A Celebration of Small Things.” Each day I record at least one observation worth noting, because:

 

“A grateful heart is one

that finds the countless blessings of God

in the seemingly mundane of

every day life.”

–Anonymous

 

Pages of entries over the last two years remind me of just how blessed I am. For example:

January 10, 2017: “The birds are singing a “Hallelujah Chorus” of their own this morning, in celebration of the sudden balmy temperatures—into the upper 50s!”

 

 

Review of such moments does refresh my attitude.

 

4. Kindness creates blooms of grace.

In 1987 I began a journal to document God’s grace. So far, the record of more than 1300 entries offers sublime flower-gathering in my mind. Again, one example:

1996/97 proved to be a particularly challenging year at the school where I taught. Frustration plagued many of us faculty members. In late September I confessed to my early morning prayer group my difficulty in letting go of annoyance, and Betty prayed for me.

Minutes later as I drove to school, my attention was drawn to bright sunbeams radiating from behind great billowing clouds. It seemed the windows of heaven had been opened, and the glory of God on his throne radiated from just beyond that cloud bank. I could almost hear him saying, “You’re going to be fine—I’m right here to help you!”

 

 

Betty’s kind prayer and that God-given sky-reminder provided perfect affirmation. And now, that entry and many like it remind me: My Heavenly Father has been ever-faithful in the past; I can trust him for the future.

 

5. Scripture provides blooms of truth.

Within the pages of the Bible we find a variety of flowers for the mind, including those mentioned here: wisdom, encouragement, beauty, refreshment, and grace. But the most important is truth. Absolute truth.

We live in a time when relative truth is embraced by many, but:

 

 

(“Truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it,

ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

–Winston Churchill)

 

The wise person seeks after truth—truth that revives the soul, gives joy to the heart, and provides insight for a well-lived life. That’s exactly what the Bible provides (Psalm 19:7-8).**

One psalmist who reveled in scripture wrote: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97).

And no wonder. The Bible is a continual source of flowers for the mind—of the very best, wisest, and most beautiful kind.

 

Where do you gather flowers of the mind? Share with us in the Comment section below!

__________________________________

 

*Quoted from Soul Retreats for Busy People, compiled by Lila Emspon

 

**If you’re not sure whether scripture is reliable truth or not, I recommend Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, or The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense by Mark Mittleberg. It is the honest person who invites God to reveal himself.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.nps.gov;  http://www.pocketshare.speedofcreativity.org; http://www.azquotes.com.

 

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The first time I saw the above painting by Richard Schem, Times Square in New York City came to mind. If you’ve ever stood at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue at night, you too may have been overwhelmed by the cacophony of color produced by thousands of neon lights.

But Richard’s painting is titled, “See the World.” That provides a very different perspective.  Now I see the colors of the sea, the brilliant hues of silken saris from India, the verdant hillsides of Ireland, the rich crimson of Chinese lacquer, the terracotta and ochre tones of the Grand Canyon.

 

 

In one painting, he’s captured the glory of color that pervades much of our world.

Of course, Richard Schem isn’t the only artist who sees the world with fresh perspective and provides a delicious moment of discovery for those who pause long enough to experience a work of art, not just view it.

I wonder what would happen if we became artists of our days—pausing long enough to find fresh perspective now and then? Might we make a delicious discovery or two? Might our days explode with colorful moments, like Richard Schem’s canvas?

If that sounds enticing, the next question would be: How do we become artists of the everyday? I’m thinking the following strategies might provide a good place to start.

 

1. Paint the day with positivity.

 

Why let the drab colors of disappointment, difficulty, and frustration shroud the day when we can choose the cheerful hues of optimism, opportunity, and blessing?

 

 

“A joyful heart makes a face cheerful.”

–Proverbs 15:13a

 

Just this morning (It’s Monday as I begin to draft), Steve and I had to go to the hospital for his weekly blood draw. Unfortunately, Mother Nature played an April Fool’s joke during the night: the SUV was covered in frost. Not being quite tall enough for the job, I attacked the ice on the windshield with some difficulty, and was soon huffing and puffing.**

Well, at least this is good exercise, I thought. And listen to the birds, happily trilling and chirping, not the least bit deterred by the chill this morning. My frustration began to subside.

 

2. Weave gratitude from morning till night.

 

(This photo taken last September)

 

Recent threads in my gratitude tapestry include: hot coffee in a thermal mug, sunshine streaming in the windows, a trio of deer feasting on the backyard hillside, candle-lighting time each evening, and a delightful book intertwining mystery and humor.

God’s goodness comes in many colors and textures.

 

3. Mold moments into sanctuaries of joyful worship.

 

 Instead of just waiting for joy to find us, we can create it. Here are a few possibilities:

 

 

  • Celebrate the prize of a smile from each person you meet—especially if you’re the one to smile and say hello first.

 

  • Savor virtual snapshots of delightful observations: a squirrel perched at the very tip of a branch, feather duster clouds sweeping the sky, the dimples on the back of a small child’s hand.

 

  • Find richness in the commonplace: the miracle of crocus blooming through the snow, fire flames leaping on the hearth (never the same way twice), and raindrop jewels glistening on the foliage.

 

 

“For you, O Lord,

have made me glad by your work;

at the works of your hands

I sing for joy.”

–Psalm 92:4 ESV

 

Design to bless others.

Becoming artists of the everyday for our own hearts’ sake is certainly beneficial, but inspiring others to connect with the Master Artist as the result of our optimism, gratitude, and good cheer? Well, that just multiplies the blessing.

How have you painted your day with positivity, woven gratitude into the hours, or molded moments into sanctuaries of joy? Share with us in the Comment section below!

 

______________________________

 

*A phrase borrowed from Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson.

**My thoughtful husband usually takes care of this chore, but he’s recovering from a subdural hematoma as many of you know. Such exertions as frost removal are not allowed for at least three months.

Art & photo credits:  http://www.horchow.com (Richard Schem); http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pexels.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg.

 

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How would you complete the following sentence?

The most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity is:

  1. Prayer
  2. Worship
  3. Laughter
  4. Camaraderie with other believers

To be fair, all four of those God-given gifts are therapeutic. But pastor/author Charles Swindoll considers Answer C, laughter, as number one (1).

 

 

Perhaps he’s familiar with the research documenting the benefits of an enthusiastic guffaw. Laughter has been proven to:

  • Reduce stress, depression, and blood pressure
  • Increase the production of HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Improve immunity, mood, and sleep
  • Improve the function of lungs, heart, and cardiovascular system
  • Help relieve artery inflammation and pain

In fact, “the medical world has verified that laughter releases endorphins, God’s natural painkillers, which are fifty to one hundred times more powerful than morphine” (2).   Wowsers!

No wonder God inspired King Solomon to write: “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

 

 

I’m thinking our Heavenly Father also receives benefit and blessing as he takes delight in the laughter of his children–just as human parents (and grandparents!) do.

In addition, when we face the day lightheartedly and find humor even when life is hard, we’re actually expressing our trust in God.  That blesses him too.

Phillip Yancey has identified similarities between laughter and prayer–of all things. “In both acts, we stand on equal ground,” he says, “freely acknowledging ourselves as fallen creatures. We take ourselves less seriously…Laughter and prayer unite” (3).

I hadn’t thought of that before. Prayer does unite our hearts as we present together the same requests to God.

Laughter unites us too–young and old, employers and employees–even total strangers. We “become a single group of human beings, enjoying [our] existence”—W. Grant Lee.  And if we include God, the joy is multiplied.

 

 

But most of us won’t accumulate enough laughter in a day to do much good unless we intentionally seek it out. So the question becomes: how do we jump-start the habit of laughter and make it a morning-noon-and-night event?

Here are five suggestions to get the laughs rolling:

  • Purchase a joke-of-the-day calendar or access a humor website like Reader’s Digest’s https://www.rd.com/jokes/, and start the day with a few giggles. To increase the benefit further, share the joke with someone else.  Here’s a short sample–easy to remember!

 

 

  • Watch a few minutes of humorous YouTube videos. You can’t go wrong with Tim Hawkins, Chonda Pierce, or Michael Jr. I can almost guarantee they’ll have you in stitches, even if you watch them all by yourself.   But for best results, invite one or two others to watch and chuckle along with you.  Here’s Chonda Pierce talking about piano lessons:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjcfdnqSvT0

 

  • Spend time with young children. They laugh easily and so delectably, you won’t be able to resist laughing yourself.

 

 

 

 

  • Start a collection of jokes, cartoons, and humorous statements—whatever makes you laugh. You’ll be prepared with some giggle-makers when stress mounts, anxiety flares, or disappointment deflates the day.

 

Perhaps you’ll find one or two laugh-prompts here to begin your compilation:

 

  • “Normal is just a setting on the dryer.”—Patsy Clairmont

 

  • “Exercise in the morning—before your brain figures out what you’re doing.”—Unknown

 

 

  • “Youth is a disease from which we all recover”—Dorothy Fulheim.

 

  • “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes”—Unknown.

 

  • “Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting”—Unknown.

 

 

  • When Miss Andrews took her first graders to music class, the teacher, Mrs. Judson, wasn’t there. To keep the children productively occupied until she arrived, Miss Andrews asked the class if they knew the person whose name was written in big letters on the board: John Philip Sousa. One little boy raised his hand. “I don’t know who he is,” the first grader responded, “but if his name is on the board, he’s in big trouble” (4).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for giving us the ability to laugh. It truly is a gift of your grace, refreshing our spirits and opening our hearts to your joy. Teach us to express our trust in you with laughter, defying our worries and fears with frequent chuckles, giggles, and hoots!

 

 

What made you laugh recently?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1.  www.christianquotes.info
  2. Marilyn Meberg, Joy Breaks
  3. Philip Yancey, Grace Notes
  4. True story! It happened at the school where I taught for many years.  Teachers’ name have been changed.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.deviantart.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.afgsc.af.mil.

 

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The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

 

It’s a familiar story:

Crowds of people teemed the hillside—thousands of them. They had gathered hours before so Jesus could heal the sick and infirm. But soon the sun would set, and hunger gnawed at everyone’s belly.

One young boy offered his meager lunch, and with its contents Jesus provided an ample supper for the entire throng.

I can only imagine, Jesus breaking the pickled fish and barley rolls into pieces over and over, his hands hiding the actual multiplication. He must have worked fast too.

Let’s see…if 5,000 men were in attendance, and perhaps an additional 5,000 women and children, the total count may have approached 10,000 people.

And if each bread-and-fish meal required one second of Jesus’ time to create, he would have been producing food for two hours and forty-six minutes. (Math whizzes: please check my figuring.) In actuality, the process must have been much more rapid.

But even when everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus wasn’t finished yet.

“Gather all the leftovers,” he told his disciples. And they filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).

 

 

Now why would Jesus create an overabundance? Such excessiveness seems without purpose. And why did he instruct the disciples to collect all those leftovers? The birds would have swooped in and quickly devoured the remains.

But Jesus had his reason. Like all the other miracles he performed, his objective was to make plain certain truths about himself and his Father.

Consider:

  • The sheer number of wonders proved he was the Messiah. No one before or since has achieved such a record number of miracles.
  • Jesus’ supernatural deeds for people of all walks of life demonstrated his love and compassion for everyone; a person’s nationality or social status didn’t matter.
  • The breadth of his power became clear as he turned water into wine, healed numerous kinds of diseases and infirmities, quieted the wind, caused nets to fill with fish, walked on water, and even raised the dead.

 

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt

 

The miracle of multiplied bread and fish highlights God’s benevolence. And the leftovers in particular provide a memorable picture of God’s inexhaustible resources and overflowing grace, available to us through Jesus.

I wonder if the disciples were reminded of Psalm 31:19 as their baskets began to fill with roll fragments:

 

 

Such abundance none of them had ever seen before.  The fact that it was an abundance of bread is significant too, because the very next day Jesus called himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

 

 

Just as he had supernaturally provided an abundance of bread for a huge crowd, so he would supernaturally provide an abundance of life (John 10:10)a God-enhanced, satisfying, joy-filled life—to those who believe in him (John 11:25-26).

And what about those twelve baskets? Where might a band of wandering disciples find a dozen baskets on a Galilean hillside?

Historians can explain. Each man would have been carrying his own kophinos—a knapsack-type basket. It would have held food and necessary items for a journey, and also provided a place for acquired objects or supplies along the way.

The baskets might symbolize our hearts where the Bread of Life dwells. But unlike the disciples’ grapevine backpacks, our hearts are elastic, capable of stretching to hold more and more of the fullness of God.

And there is a wondrous and glorious abundance to be gathered.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Father,

“We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of your goodness or any experience for which you will have no blessing ready” (J. R. Miller).

You are our Almighty God, able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. With you, amazing things are always ahead.  Hallelujah!  

(Luke 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org ( U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1924.); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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The call came at 5:34 a.m., waking Steve and me from sound sleep. Immediately he thought, This is it. My brain hardly registered a phone ringing.

Within moments, however, my body was in high gear, preparing to leave for the hospital. This day—December 19, 2018—Steve would receive a new liver, the only long-term solution for his liver cancer, caused by non-alcoholic cirrhosis. He had been on the transplant wait list for six months.

That predawn phone call became Miracle #1 out of at least twelve over the next two weeks. Steve’s name had only been moved to the top-tier twelve days prior.  (Some patients must wait a year or more.)

Upon arriving at the hospital, Steve underwent two-hours of surgery prep. And then we waited, and waited some more, until the orderlies finally came and wheeled him away.

Miracle #2: Much of the day I waited alone, although Hilja (our daughter-in-law and a physician at the same hospital) sat with me as she could, especially in the evening. But God’s peace that transcends all understanding absolutely guarded my heart and mind the entire time.  I knew all would be well.

 

 

Miracle #3: The first hours in ICU are critical for any patient. God chose a special nurse to care for Steve, one that a colleague had highly praised to Hilja. In addition, Steve was her only patient for about six hours.

Miracle #4: Hilja insisted on spending the night in ICU. As Steve’s blood pressure and some bleeding became an issue, she was there as an extra set of eyes and ears, ready to advocate on his behalf. (Her expertise and support have been invaluable for the entire nine months since Steve’s diagnosis. She’s even attended some appointments with us.)

Miracle #5: The next day, the breathing tube was removed, and Steve was able to sit up in bed. His voice sounded raspy, but he wasn’t groggy, and soon Steve was joking with the nurses, Scot and Mac (What delightful, attentive young men!). By afternoon, they had Steve walking around the nurse’s station. His progress toward healing amazed us all.

 

 

On Day 3, Steve was transferred to the step-down unit where Laura and Katie took over his care. Again, such kind, helpful nurses. In fact, we’ve been highly impressed by the expertise and compassion of the staff at University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Steve continued to make rapid progress, sitting up in a chair for longer stretches of time, circling more laps around the unit each time he walked.

An added blessing those first few days: a young mom from our church babysat for our granddaughters so our son Eric could run errands and visit Steve.

Pastor Michael came to see Steve that day, stopping short upon entering the room. “This is not what I was expecting!” he cried. Although Steve was in bed, he was sitting up, looking perfectly healthy and alert.

 

 

 

On Saturday, Hilja, Elena (our five-year old granddaughter), and I were supposed to attend The Nutcracker. I expected to miss the performance, with Steve only three days post-op.

But because he was recuperating so well, because Laura and Katie were taking such good care of him, and because Eric could keep Steve company for part of the time, I felt confident all would be well in my absence.

Eric was even allowed to bring Maarit, our almost two-year old granddaughter, with the understanding that hugging, kissing, and sitting on Papa’s lap would be forbidden. That was okay by Maarit. Papa’s walker provided great fun.

Meanwhile, we three girls enjoyed the ballet performance—glorious moments of respite.  (God knew I’d be ready to lose myself in the Land of Sweets!)

 

 

Miracle #6: Steve was released the afternoon of the 24th, just five days after surgery.   Christmas Day we reveled in the granddaughters’ gift-opening at our home—not at the hospital.

Miracle #7: Our younger son and his wife arrived the 26th, our daughter and older granddaughter flew in on the 27th. They had all planned to visit anyway, but what perfect timing God supplied! For ten days they provided gracious help.

Miracle #8: Insurance is covering a visiting nurse on Thursday, so we only have to go to the hospital for post-op check-ups once a week.

Miracle #9: Steve has experienced very little pain. Within twelve days he was taking only Tylenol at bedtime. Now he’s not even taking that.

Miracle #10: The discomfort of acute swelling caused the most trouble after returning home. The doctor told us the edema could take up to three weeks to resolve, but within one week it was much improved.

 

 

Miracle #11: Transplant patients almost always require insulin until the medications that raise blood sugar can be reduced. Steve’s insulin dosage has already been lowered, and only several times has he needed extra insulin beyond the once-daily dose.

Miracle#12: The huge outpouring of love, support, and prayer throughout this entire process have contributed greatly to Steve’s healing.  Many of you reading this post are part of this miracle.

At Tuesday’s post-op check-up we were told his platelet and white blood cell counts are continuing to rise. “Your new liver is happy!” exclaimed the physician’s assistant.

Needless to say, so are we.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Just these past three weeks, O God, You have done such great things for us! “Our hearts brim with joy.” Now may your unfailing love rest upon us, even as we put our hope for the future in you.

 (Psalm 126:3; 33:21a MSG; 33:22)

 

(Nutcracker image from http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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